Letters to the Editor

Can oral sex save your marriage? Plus: Dissecting coverage of EgyptAir crash; Chez Panisse founder is a fraud.

By Letters to the Editor

Published November 23, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

"Drop 'em, babe!"


I kept waiting for Ormandy to mention how her husband giving her
"blow jobs" contributed to her perfect marriage, but it never
happened. The subtitle of the article did mention oral sex,
and I've always understood that to mean both fellatio and
cunnilingus. I have nothing at all against fellatio, and concur that it's an easy way to bolster, um, good feelings in
a busy marriage. I also understand that in some relationships,
one partner may crave oral sex more than the other. However,
for an article to advertise itself as being about "oral sex"
but only discuss fellatio is both telling and sort of sad.

-- Beth Gallagher

My man gets oral sex from me because I love him and I enjoy
getting his rocks off, not because I want to barter for his time and
attention, or for a night off from said attention. How sad Carol Ormandy's
life must be.

-- Regina (last name withheld at writer's request)

I must disagree with your
comment about gourmet cooks. Those of us who are not merely gourmet cooks
but also enlightened ones know that the way to a man's heart is through
his stomach only if the kitchen is in the bedroom and all the cooking
takes place there. Otherwise, the route is a loooong detour.

-- Rita Marie Nibasa

Poetry nation?


I share the lament that poetry has increasingly become as pedestrian
as the public service announcement.
I have nothing against the notion of "everybody writing poetry" any more
than I am against people singing in the shower. But the current trend
in the popularization of poetry seems akin to setting Caruso beside the
average warbler in a karaoke bar. Poetry slams, poetry on the bus,
poetry on the T-shirt, Nike poets, etc. only seem to contribute to
this phenomenon.

I fear that this "democratization" of poetry has also become a
degradation of what was once thought of as the highest of all literary
arts. Somewhere between multiculturalism -- which helped fracture poetry
into separate but equal camps more interested in politics than humanity
-- and the maddening absence of serious literary criticism (when was the last
time anyone read a negative review of a well-known poet?), the room for
"popular poetry" seems to have expanded to the detriment of the sort of
challenging verse that has sustained the genre over the centuries.

I would like to believe that "some revelation is at hand." But it appears
that Yeats' "rough beast" has arrived with a Poets & Writers totebag in one
hand and a grant application in the other.

-- David Penn

Americans don't read poetry because for the most part, they can't. The
vocabulary of an American is impoverished. Compare the vocabulary in the
Economist and Newsweek. No comparison.

I go to a weekly poetry reading and see people from all walks of life, people who put in 40 hours of work per week and then write poetry in the evening. It's a small number, true, but it happens. Melanie Rehak's own surprise that the common folk would have any interest in poetry is betrayed by
her line "people who have no obvious reason to be all that interested in poetry."
I publish a Web site that features poems and I've
gotten responses from readers who are surprised to find that they like poetry.

So why doesn't Salon publish poetry?

-- Maggie Balistreri

The frenzy over a pilot's prayer


I strongly suspect that the coverage of the EgyptAir crash is worse than general media frenzy -- it smells like bigotry to me. Someone says something in Arabic that sounds like a prayer, and without further investigation or thought, the cause of the crash is decided:
It is a prayer! He's consigning himself to Allah before killing himself and
everyone aboard the plane! How can we be so certain? He's an Arab -- so of
course he's a religious fanatic and a terrorist.

-- Maia Cowan

Royal Oak, Mich.

Of course the family of the pilot would deny that he was
committing suicide, and murdering 216 other people along
with himself. But can people be so naive as to believe that pilots can just leave
all of their problems and worries on the ground every time
they take off?

-- Bill Lambert


I note that the Egyptian press is focusing almost entirely on the "suicide" angle and
how they feel Batouti was a devout Muslim who would never do such a thing.
If you have a chance, you should ask a representative of the Egyptian
media how he would classify the death of a Palestinian "suicide" bomber who kills
several people along with himself. It is my understanding that those
sympathetic to the Palestinian cause would not characterize this as a
straight suicide, but something more along the line of a martyr's death.

There were 33 Egyptian officers on the plane. It may very well be that Batouti's prime motive was to commit a murder that he would probably not survive. If this were the case, Batouti
himself would not have looked on this action as a suicide, but rather as a
heroic act to remove agents of the oppressive government.

Egypt is not a democracy. It is an authoritarian regime which uses the military to ensure that Hosni Mubarak stays in power. The Mubarak regime has many enemies within Egypt.

One more thing that needs to be said is that some other cultures assign less value to getting out all the sordid details of a tragedy. Many Egyptians might think that even if Batouti deliberately caused the crash, it is not necessary to defame (by association) Batouti's innocent survivors. The truth will not bring back the victims, so the fallout can only be more financial harm and embarrassment to Egypt itself.

-- Paul Ratliff

Grisly precision


The NTSB has to blame someone for every accident. It's so easy
to say pilot error, when many times an "incident" could have been an
"accident" if it hadn't been for quick thinking on the pilot's part.
I'm amazed that we still have so many dedicated pilots flying today, when
virtually every time something goes wrong, they wind up being the scapegoat
instead of the hero who saved a planeload of people.

The NTSB should give credit when credit is due, and change its policy of making these
dedicated individuals scapegoats when "wind shear" causes the accident, or a
deer runs in front of the plane on the runway. Could you do a better job?

-- R. Michael Mahr

Did relief pilot seize control from captain?


The title of your article should be "More media speculation on events surrounding EgyptAir Flight 990." The thinking American public is tired of this type of pathetic
journalistic effort, now so common in our media. Report the facts and leave
the analysis and conjecture to the investigative experts. Let the American
people decide.

-- Paul F. Vanek Jr.

Brilliant Careers: Alice Waters


The cuisine featured at Chez Panisse, and championed by Alice Waters, is
essentially tasteless and overpriced. In my visit to
Chez Panisse a few years ago, after hearing so much hoopla about the
place, I was expecting simple refreshing morsels. What I got was
minuscule lumps of tastelessness. The portions were ridiculously small,
and devoid of any invention or creativity. And the prices are ridiculous. Waters
divorces the pleasure principle from eating, and thinks that this is a
virtue. It is a fraud, and so is she.

-- Donald Juneau

On closer reading


Boris Kachka largely misrepresents what I said in our phone conversation
about the ALSC. I tried to explain to Kachka that I joined ALSC as an alternative to
the MLA, which had become increasing non-literary, and that I am happy I
joined although I keep my membership in MLA. ALSC is a very worthy
organization but, because it covers all of literature, it naturally
cannot generate the kind of excitement available at more focused
conferences. And it is weakest in dealing with contemporary literary
developments, with more experimental poetics and/or fiction.
No doubt this is inevitable in such a wide-ranging organization. But,
as I specifically told Kachka, the panels featured this year on
Proust and on various classical subjects sounded very impressive; I
especially commented on the panel at which professor Jerome McGann was to
speak and said it would be excellent.
So I was by no means as negative as Kachka makes me out to be. I
support the general aims of ALSC whole-heartedly.

-- Marjorie Perloff

Stanford University

Kachka cherry-picks the discontent of one of his former teachers and loads on grudging statements by opponents outside ALSC to denigrate efforts of experts in pre-World War II subjects to discourse with experts in contemporary subjects. What does Kachka omit? That ALSC is a generalist society that has declared "world literature" as its purview; that it features living poets, fiction writers, dramatists, translators and cultural critics as speakers; that its conferences are notable both for their variety of topics from contemporary to ancient and for the variety in the plenary-session audiences who want to hear about literary matters beyond their own specialties. The crucial blank in Kachka's report on cultural deviation? That critics and writers at ALSC conferences appear to enjoy shamelessly the pleasure of talking about literature and hearing it read.

-- Gerald Gillespie

Invasion of the body snatchers


Your article covering Lenora Fulani and Pat Buchanan illustrates the appeal
of the Reform Party. The article is heavily biased towards discrediting
these public figures by omitting their accomplishments, quoting them out of
context, and resorting to what's generally regarded as a smear. You left out
that Fulani is quite successful at building an independent movement with the
limited resources she has to work with -- namely a large collection of laws
that suppress independent politics, and a press that ignores grass-roots,
democratic initiatives. She has found common ground with political foes for
her entire career -- a novel approach in this half of the century, but a
common practice throughout history.

Conason also left out that Fred Newman is a well-published psychologist, has played a prominent role at the American Psychology Association convention for the last several years,
and works with many Jewish people every day. As for the "sheep-like"
followers, he criticized a lot of people who are strong and capable and
find that social therapy is a form of therapy that works very well for

Lastly, Pat Buchanan has realized the futility of influencing
change within the Republican Party. He left because a few top GOP officers
have already decided the nomination. The primaries are a farce -- and he
knows it. He asked himself the question "Why be in a political party if you
have no influence whatsoever?" He left because the Democrat and Republican
parties are no longer democratic.

-- S. DuVal


Thank you for exposing Lenora Fulani's unholy alliance with
Pat Buchanan and the Reform Party. And thank you, Ross Perot, for
establishing and financing a haven for the dead or dying and terminally
idiotic. They deserve to go out with the dignity of a party affiliation
-- but not Republican, if the GOP is to stand a chance of electing George W.
next year. Luck to the lot of 'em.

-- Robert Glass

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